in Chiang Mai with the Blue Elephant

For Day Three of our Chiang Mai trip, we booked a tour with the Blue Elephant Thailand Tours. Our guide, Joy, is a modern lady, spoke English very well and is very knowledgable. Between our destinations, she shared about her country and about her life.

Our first stop was at a local orchid farm. Thailand is one of the exporters of orchids, which is a family of flowering plants with over 20,000 species. Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore's National flower, is one of them. The orchids displayed at this farm are mainly Vanda and Cattleya genus.

Blooming colourful orchids everywhere in the farm.

These are baby orchids grown in sterile environment from seeds.

Next, we stop-by a local market. This was not originally in our itinerary, but since we were passing by, Joy decided to stop here to buy some fresh mangoes to make mango sticky rice as our dessert for lunch later. It's a good opportunity of us to see the diet of the locals too.

Yap... they eat insects.

The famous Thailand mango sticky rice.

After that, we proceed to the more adventurous activities - water rafting! This is the only picture at this stop, obviously because we can't be bring our cameras into the water. March is really not the season for water rafting... the water is too calm. But for a beginner like me, this was enough an experience.

Then, after lunch, we moved on to visit the Karen Hill Tribe Village. Before flying to Chiang Mai, I did a little research on the places of interest and found some negative comments about visiting these long-neck people. Some tourists felt that these tribal people have become a "zoo attraction". History has it that these people escaped from Burmese oppression and came to Thailand to seek refuge. However, they cannot become Thai citizens and they are not allowed to wander further into Thailand. This national park that they are staying now, is the only place they can be at. To make a living, the women would weave scarfs and make jewelleries, while the men would become mahout (care-takers) at nearby elephant camps. Our motherly guide, Joy, brought along jellies for us to give to the Karen tribe children. Isn't that sweet and thoughtful?

The children are very happy to receive jellies.

Weaving scarfs to make a living.

Our last stop of the day was at the Thai Elephant Home. This is another attraction that had been gaining much negative attention, where animal lovers are concerned about the well-being of the elephant (see article). However, the livelihood of the Thai people depends very much on tourism. Thus, closing down of elephant camps might just do more damage. Perhaps, it might be wiser to choose a good elephant camp to visit. My friend did her homework and decided on the bare-back kind of ride.

We were each handed a bunch of banana to fed the elephants before riding on them. One of them quickly snatched the whole bunch from me!

We went on a 2-hour ride, which included bathing the elephants in the river. Along the way, we tried to enjoy the scenery, while managing our balance on the big creature... It takes awhile to get the hang of it. The guides are very friendly and took photos for us throughout the journey. Back at the camp, there are shower rooms for us to clean up and change back to our clothes. I must say that I'm really impressed by their standard of bathroom cleanliness, even though it's a simple standalone hut!

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